After a guest blog on travel insurance, it felt appropriate to follow it with blog on staying healthy on the road while traveling with an aging parent….enjoy!
Getting sick is always the pits, but it’s even worse when you’re on vacation. In addition to wasting money and precious vacation time, an illness on the road can be even more difficult to manage when you lack ready access to the prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that can help you get better faster. Staying healthy while on the road is even more critical if your aging parent has medical conditions that require specialty medication not easily accessible. Adding insult to injury, getting sick while traveling can be worse than usual, simply because you’re not home: there’s a lot to be said about the benefits of being in your own bed when you’re unwell! And for aging
Unfortunately, travel can often make us more susceptible to illness. In addition to the risk factors present at your destination, conditions during the journey itself can increase your odds of getting sick. (Who among us hasn’t felt the first hint of a sore throat—or something even worse—after sitting on a plane for hours surrounded by coughing passengers?) Doing what you can to ensure that you’re as healthy as possible before embarking on vacation is a good precaution for you to take—and doubly so for your aging parents. In addition to being healthy before you go, you should also include knowing how to stay healthy while you’re on the road.
In case you’re sneaking in a family trip before the summer is over, here are 8 tips for you and your parent to stay healthy:
- Visit a travel medicine specialist (aka a travel doctor) – While certainly critical if you’re visiting a developing country, this is equally important if you’re traveling in the United States or other developed country, as a travel doctor can ensure both you and your parent are current on all your vaccines before you hit the road. Primary care physicians may or may not be up on vaccines which a travel specialist would (as an example, a travel doctor would know that anyone living in the U.S. should get vaccines for tetanus, pneumonia, and shingles, whether they travel or not).
- Wash your hands often – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that more than 8 million people board a flight every day (that’s over 3 billion people a year). That’s a lot of grubby hands and who knows where they’ve been. Wash your hands often to cut down on the transfer of germs from others.
- Carry sanitizing wipes – I always have hand sanitizer in my carry-on just in case access to the restroom is not an option (such as during bumpy weather). Another great idea though is to carry sanitizing wipe with you so you can wipe down the fold down tray. Who knows how well the cleaning crew really cleans the interior of airplanes and even so, you only need one flight for the tray to be handled by someone with a cold or flu.
- Do some activities – I love working out while on the road. In fact, I find I’m much more dedicated when I’m in a strange location vs. when I’m at home (where I can find all kinds of distractions!). Staying active boosts your immune system, releases endorphins and helps with staying mentally sharp. That helps me, but what about Mom? She is definitely the tougher sell, particularly as her knees hurt all the time (hence why she travels in a wheelchair for anything over a short city block). If this sounds familiar, check out my previous recommendations for stationary exercises which can be used when flying or once you arrive at your destination.
- Hydrate and limit alcohol consumption – This one is tough as mom and I both love our cocktails (Bailey’s for Mom, wine or Grey Goose vodka for me). This is particularly critical for long hauls flights as dehydration can be factor in developing deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in the leg). That said, anytime you’re traveling, it’s good to stay hydrated. Mom and I have a pact that for every adult beverage we consume, we have to drink a glass of water in between. No water, no cocktail. This has been particularly effective with mom as she hates drinking water (and I rarely think about it) so we make a game of checking each other’s consumption.
- Stay on schedule with medications – This will go a long way toward ensuring that your parents stay healthy on the road. During the transit phase of your vacation, plenty of things can go wrong and distract you from remembering either your or your parents’ pill schedules. So do your homework before the trip by pre-programming alarms, putting reminders in a book, marking your calendar, making use of a pill organizer, or doing whatever else you must to ensure that your parents stay on schedule.
- Skip the carbs – Protein helps you resist infection and keep your immune system healthy. So skip the carbs at meal-time and bring healthy protein-laden snacks with you including pumpkin seeds, almonds or other nuts, oatmeal-raisin cookies (one of mom’s favorites!) or low-sodium beef or turkey jerky. Arrive early at the airport so you have time for a pre-flight meal loaded with fruits, vegetables and low-fat proteins vs. relying on airline food (assuming your airline even offers food). Maintaining a healthy balance while you’re on vacation can go a long way in not getting sick.
- Rest and get plenty of sleep – The health benefits of getting enough sleep are often touted. For myself, whether I’m on the road or not, if I skimp on sleep for several days in a row, chances are I’ll feel the sniffles coming on (at least). Not only are there plenty of reasons for your physical well-being, it also helps mom and I get along better if we’re not overly tired and therefore more prone to snipping at each other. Although many travel warriors recommending forcing yourself to stay up when you land in a foreign country, Mom and I take short naps upon arrival so we can actually stand to be around one another.
Bon voyage! Mom and I would love to see pictures of your trip – be sure and share on our TWAP Facebook page!